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Health Tips & Advice

Escape Mental Health Pitfalls with Acceptance, Self-Respect and Positivity

By Dr. Jack Muskat, Medcan Clinical Director of Mental Health

Everyone struggles from time to time. These strategies are designed to help you avert certain issues before they arise.

It happens to all of us: You’re facing an important deadline at work, your mother’s gearing up for surgery, your child is struggling with math, and the house is a disaster. One more piece of bad news and before you know it, you’re in the midst of a mental health struggle. The pandemic has only made the issue worse. An article published earlier this year by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) stated that one in five Canadians reported high levels of mental distress.

It’s important to prioritize your mental health, even when you have other things going on. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Here are a few common mental health pitfalls you can self-monitor and learn how to manage.

  1. The trap of perfection. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. I see many of my clients struggle with this issue. “I didn’t get into my dream university.” “I haven’t found my perfect romantic partner.” Or: “I didn’t get that promotion, so I’m a failure.” This can become a serious issue—especially when it comes to confidence. It leads to procrastination, or can stop you from taking on new challenges because you don’t want to “fail.” You risk getting caught in a cycle of self-sabotage.
  2. Catastrophic thinking. This is closely related to the trap of perfection, as it can also stop you from trying new things. Catastrophic thinkers tend to overestimate risk—so they get caught up imagining worst-case scenarios, which are highly unlikely. It can feel incredibly debilitating. “If I don’t get into the right school, I’ll never be successful at anything,” for example. So often, 99% of our worries never actually occur, but it’s fixating on that 1% that can impact our mental health.
  3. The comfort of denial. We tend to rationalize away our discomfort. We say things like, “I’m not fulfilled at my job, but at least I have a pension.” Or: “My partner and I fight a lot, but at least I’m not alone.” If we continually ignore these problems, they can snowball into bigger issues that affect our overall happiness, mood and mental well-being.

Now that you know what to look for, what can you do to actually prevent or address these pitfalls when you encounter them? Here are a few strategies to try.

First, practice self acceptance. At the root of all three of the pitfalls is our tendency to be very hard on ourselves. We need to focus more on our strengths than on our weaknesses. We are all flawed. We all have problems and issues. Admitting that perfection is unattainable is the first step. Remember: Perfection is the enemy of the good. Once you know yourself better and become comfortable with who you are, you’ll be better equipped to manage future problems.

Next, learn to regain your self-respect. You need to establish the habits and routines that lead to positive outcomes. Everything we do has a consequence. We need to be able to feel that we’re doing the best we can with the resources that we have. Embracing small pleasures can help here. Take leisure walks in nature, or spend time with a friend who makes you feel good about yourself.

Substitute positive activities for negative ones. For example, swap cocktail hour for a group fitness class. Consider enlisting the help of others here. It’s amazing the power that a group has. People can achieve surprising outcomes with the love and support of loved ones. It’s hard work, for sure, but I can guarantee you that it will be worth it.

Finally, some mental health problems require professional assistance to fix. If even reading this article makes you feel overwhelmed, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional, who can guide you through change.

Talk to a member of Medcan’s Mental Well-Being team to discover how mindfulness may be helpful to you. Email mentalwellbeing@medcan.com.

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